Home > 004116. Michael Bacon > The Bacons of Virginia and Their English Ancestry

The Bacons of Virginia and Their English Ancestry

Source: Charles Hervey Townshend, “The Bacons of Virginia and Their English Ancestry,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 37[1883].

[page 189]

Grimbaldus, a Norman gentleman, it is said, came into England at the time of the Conquest in company with William DE WARREN, Earl of Surry, to whom he was related, and was granted lands at Letheringsete,* near Holt, in the County Norfolk, and had issue three sons, Radulph, Edmund and Ranulf, and here he founded a church, appointing for its parson his second son Edmund.**

His younger son Ranulf, or Reynold, resided at Thorp, Norfolk, and took the name of BACON; and as there were several Thorps, this place was called Bacons-Thorpe,*** as Reynold was Lord of the town, and from him sprang this illustrious family, many members of it being distinguished for talent and brilliancy of mind.  This Ranulf was father of George, whose son Roger BACON released to his own sister Agnes all the lands belonging to this family in Normandy, and from him down through many generations descended the BACONs of Drinkstone and Hessett in the County Suffolk.****

[* See Note I. At the end of this article. – EDITOR]

** See Blomefield’s Norfolk, Kimber and Johnson’s Baronetage.  The history of Grimbaldus and his immediate descendants, which we here repeat, needs investigation.

[*** See Note II. – ED.]

[**** See Note III. – ED.]

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Of this (the Hessett) family, we find a John BACON, who married Cecilly HOO, sister of John HOO or HOWE, perhaps of Hessett, who with his brother in law John BACON were probably the builders of the beautiful church there, as proved by evidence still extant on the exterior and interior of this edifice, as shown in heliotype by the Rev. Canon COOKE in his introductory history of HESSETT, published in the “Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archæology and Natural History.”

He had sons John and Nicholas BACON.  Nicholas was chaplain of Hessett.  John of the same place married Hellen GEDDING, and had issue another John BACON, who married for first wife Hellena, daughter of Sir George TILLOTTS, of Rougham, and secondly, Julian, daughter of —- BARDWELL.  From this first marriage came Sir Nicholas BACON (the Lord-Keeper and father of the great Lord BACON), and from the second marriage the BACONs of Hessett, who flourished there more than five hundred years, when the male line ended in Henry BACON, the son of Edmund and Elizabeth (CORNWALLYS) BACON, who died without issue there in 1651, and the estates were all parcelled out among his sisters, viz.: Elizabeth, wife of Calibut WALPOLE; Frances, wife of George TOWNSEND; Katherine, wife of William COLEMAN; Susan, wife of Henry LAMB; Anne, wife of John ALDRICH; Cordelia, wife of —- HARRIS, of Maldon, and Abigail, wife of John GRIGBYE.

His father Edmund BACON, son of John BACON of Hessett, and grandson of Edmund BACON by wife Elizabeth, daughter of John PAGE of Westley, Suffolk, of which family perhaps Philip PAGE, father of Robert PAGE, Lord of the Manor of Gedding, and whose marriage to Alice HOO is recorded at Hessett, July 21, 1545, is interesting to note.  This John BACON, son of Edmund and Elizabeth (PAGE) BACON aforesaid, married first, Barbara, sister of Sir Ambrose JERMYN of Rushbrook, Knt., and secondly, Katherine PERIENTE, sister of Elizabeth PERIENTO (Lady Style) mother of Henry TOWNSEND of Bracon Ash, Norf. And Gedding, Suff., and by her had a son Captain Robert BACON, who married the Lady Cordilia, daughter of John GYLL or GILL, and widow of Sir Thomas HARRIS, Knt.*

We now return to John BACON, son of John and Helena (TILLOTTS) BACON, who married Margery THORPE, daughter and heir of John, son of William and grandson of Sir William THORPE by the daughter and heir of Sir Roger BACON, a celebrated commander in the wars, temp. Edward II. and Edward III., and lineally descended from Grimbald, the patriarch of this family.

The said John BACON was father of Edmund BACON of Drinkstone, whose son John by wife Agnes COKEFIELD had son Robert BACON who was buried at Hessett with Isabella his wife, daughter of John CAGE of Pakenham in Suffolk, and by whom he had three sons and two

* These families, the DRURYs, BACONs, PAGE, TOWNSENDs, HOW or HOO, were all connected and interested in early settlements in Virginia and New England, as the records show.

[page 191]

daughters, viz.: 1st, Thomas BACON of Northaw in Hertfordshire, who married the daughter of Mr. BROWN, but died without issue.  2nd, Sir Nicholas BACON, the Lord Keeper.  3d, James BACON, Esquire, Alderman of London, who died June 15, 1573, and was buried in the Church of St. Dunstans in the East, London; and had by first wife Mary, daughter of John GARDINER of Grove Place, county Bucks, an only son and three daughters, all dying young except Anne, wife of John REVETTS,* Esquire, of Brandiston, who died 1616, aged 77.  His second wife was Margaret, daughter of William RAWLINS, of London, and widow of Richard GOULDSTON, Salter, by whom he also had issue, William BACON, second son, of —-, Essex, and a son and daughter who died young, also his eldest son Sir James BACON, of Friston Hall, Suffolk, who was knighted at White Hall in 1604, and died at Finsbury, London, January 17, 1618, and buried in St. Giles Church on the 11 February, 1618.

This worthy Knight, by Elizabeth, daughter of Francis and Anne (DRURY**) BACON of Hessett, had two sons, Nathaniel and James; and three daughters, the latter all dying young.  The eldest son, Nathaniel BACON, Esq., of Friston, “son and heir and of full age,” January 17, 1644, by Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas LE GROSS of Crostwick, Norfolk, Knt., had a daughter Anne who died unmarried, and also Elizabeth, wife of Nathaniel, second son of Sir Nathaniel BARNARDISTON of Kelton, Knt., also a son Thomas BACON, who by first wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert BROOKE of Cockfield Hall, Yoxford, Knt., who died January 2, 1647, aged 25, and was buried at Friston, Suffolk, had issue Elizabeth, wife of Mr. HOVENER of London, and a son and heir, Nathaniel BACON, Esq., who emigrated to Virginia as early as 1670, where his father’s cousin,*** Colonel Nathaniel BACON (the governor****) resided, being possessed of large landed estates in York, Nanceymond and other counties bordering on the James River.  The first Nathaniel BACON became so notorious in Virginia history on account of the conspicuous part he took in opposing Governor BERKELEY that he acquired the cognomen of “The Rebel.”*****  A quarrel between the settlers and natives caused the former to choose BACON their general, and disregarding the

* See pedigree in The Brights of Suffolk, where this gentleman connects with numerous New England families.

** See pedigree of the DRURY family of Rougham, co. Suff., in Cullum’s History of Hawstead.  John NEWGATE’s (of Boston, N.E.) grandfather Walter HOO or HOWE, leased from the DRURYs Rougham Hall, and of this family was William DRURY, LL.D., whose widow Mary SOUTHWELL married Robert FORTH, LL.D., grandfather of Thomas TOWNSEND.  See TOWNSEND family of Lynn, in Old and New England.

[*** See Note IV. – ED.]

**** He may have held the courtesy title of governor, as an English pedigree has it.  He was of the Council, and in 1688 was its presiding officer and acting governor.  His cousin Nathaniel BACON the general was a delegate from Henrico Plantation, where he held an estate near the Falls of the James River.

***** Gent. Mag. Oct. 1816, vol. lxxxvii, p. 124; Burke’s Hist. Virg. Vol. ii.; Barber’s Hist. Coll. Virg.; Campbell’s Hist. Virg.  As early as 1663 we find Nathaniel BACON, “a hopeful young gentleman,” one of the company of RAY, who sets out on his travels in foreign parts in company with Mr. WILLOUGHBY and Sir Philip SKIPPON.  Gen. BACON’s father seems to have objected to his marriage to Elizabeth, a sister of Sir John DUKE of Benhall Lodge, near [footnote continued on next page]

[page 192]

orders of the governor, who refused him a commission, he put himself at the head of a company of colonists and punished the Indians.  For this act the governor in May, 1676, proclaimed him a rebel, and soon after arrested him at Jamestown, where he was tried before the Governor and Council, but acquitted and promised a commission, which the governor refused to sign.  BACON therefore raised a regiment of six hundred men and compelled the governor to grant the commission.  After prosecuting the Indian war with success, he was again proclaimed a rebel.  He then turned his forces against the governor, whom he defeated, and burnt Jamestown, and was following up his advantages, when he died suddenly, October 1, 1676.  He was very popular in the colony, and subsequent historians seem to justify the part he took as “rebellion in good cause.” […]

[footnote continued from previous page] Saxmundham, co. Suff., and so he emigrated to Virginia where his cousin Col. BACON resided.  After Gen. BACON’s death his wife married second Mr. JARVIS, a merchant, and thirdly Mr. MOLE.  Some writers say BACON died of brain fever, others of a disease contracted in the trenches before Jamestown.  There was another Nathaniel BACON who has often been confused with Col. BACON the Councillor and Gen. BACON the “Rebel,” or “Patriot,” as called by some.  He was Recorder of Ipswich, co. Suff., and wrote several books.  His work, “Of the Uniformity of the Governments of England,” published in 1647, was far in advance of his time, and his publishers were prosecuted and fined, and hundreds of copies seized and burnt.

These three Nathaniel BACONs had also a cousin Sir Nathaniel BACON of Culford, Suff., who excelled in landscape painting (whose uncle Sir Nathaniel BACON of Stiffkey, Norfolk, who died Nov. 7, 1622, had daughter Anne, wife of Sir John TOWNSEND of Raynham, Knt., who was also buried the same day as her father Sir Nathaniel, in Stiffkey Church [see Stiffkey Register], who died 1627), and gave his estate to Lady Jane his wife, who was buried at Culford, May 8, 1659, aged 79.  His son Nicholas BACON died sans issue, 1660, and this property went to his half brother Frederick Lord CORNWALLYS, son of Lady Jane by her first husband, Sir William CORNWALLYS, and ancestor of Charles Earl CORNWALLYS, who by wife Elizabeth TOWNSHEND (aunt to George Marquis TOWNSHEND, to whom Quebec capitulated upon the death of Gen. WOLFE) was father of Charles, first Marquis CORNWALLIS, whose surrender of his army at Yorktown, Va., to General WASHINGTON, brought to a close the struggle for American independence.

There was also a Nathaniel BACON living in New England as early as 1661 (see Savage), and in the New Haven Records there are three depositions, taken October 17, 1661, and recorded by the secretary, James BISHOP.  The first by John FLETCHER of Milford, second by Mary FLETCHER of Milford, and the third by John WARD of Branford, which last we copy verbatim, and print at the end of this article.  The first two mention the family of BACON living in Stretton, and moving to Clipsam, co. Rutland.

Michael BACON, of Dedham, Mass. (see Will, REGISTER, vol. vii. p. 230-1), and ancestor of the late Leonard BACON, D.D., LL.D., of New Haven, came from the neighborhood of Ipswich, co. Suffolk, Eng., perhaps Barham, Suffolk.  Tradition says he held the office of captain of a company of yeomanry there.

N.B. – Monument in Barham Church says Ellen, daughter of Thomas LITTLE, married Edward BACON, third son of the Lord Keeper.  They are said to have had 19 sons and 13 daughters, [See Note V. – ED.] This family held 22 manors, besides lands in 19 parishes in co. Suffolk.  This Edward BACON’s daughter Jane married Francis STONER, whose mother Mabel was daughter of Roger HARLAKENDEN, whose family were also interested in New England settlement. – Bury St. Edmunds and Environs, p. 81. […]

[page 196]

DEPOSITION OF JOHN WARD OF BRANDFORD. – [N. Hav. (Ct.) T. Recs.]

Know all men whom it may concern yt I John WARD of Brandford in ye Colony of New Haven in New England and aged about thirty Six yeares doe declare & upon my knowledge testify on oathe; that I well knew for ye space of six or seven yeares one Henry BACON of Clipsam in ye County of Rutland within ye realme of England & One William BACON brother to ye sayd Henry BACON in the same county of Rutland abouvesayd, and I never knew or heard of any brother or bretheren more yt they had by ye fathers side; and I doe further testify yt I well knew Thomas BACON sonne of Henry BACON & Nephew to Sayd William BACON & I never knew or heard the sayd Henry BACON had any other child but only the sayd Thomas BACON whoe I have heard went to the Barbadoes and died there; and further I the sayd John WARD upon Certaine knowledge doe testify, yt I well knew Nathaniel BACON to be the eldest son of William BACON, brother to the sayde Henry BACON, and the sayd Nathaniel BACON is now liveing in New England & was p’sent at my attesting hereoff and further sayth not.

Witness JOHN WARD.

This is a true record of the originall      P’ JAMES BISHOP, secret.

_______________________

NOTES BY JOHN COFFIN JONES BROWN, ESQ., OF BOSTON.

Note I. – Letheringsete was not granted to Grimbaldus, but was one of the many manors granted to the veteran soldier Walter GIFFARD, formerly Lord of Longueville, afterward first Earl of Buckingham, and one of the commissioners who superintended the compilation of the Domesday Boke.

The name of GIFFARD comes from “fat-cheeks,” and, in the slang of the Normans, cooks were called “Giffardi” in reference to their popular representation as fat and rubicund.

Grimbaldus1 was undoubtedly an early tenant, and the history of his descendants furnishes a key to the method of obtaining patronymics, if a changeable family name could be so styled.  Edmund,2 who is usually called the third son, took the name of his abode for a surname, and so did Ranulph,2 whose son Gilbert3 DE LARINGSETA had a son Jordan4 DE LARINGSETA, whose son Adam,5 in accordance with another custom, signed his name as Adam-FITZ-JORDAN (or Adam, son of Jordan), while his son Peter6 assumed again the name of the location, and in 1268 held an eighth of the fee, of the Earl of Clare, into whose possession Walter GIFFARD’s family estates had passed.

Note II. – The word Thorp is Saxon for village.  Becuns-Thorp means Beach-tree Village; and in such a one the remaining son of Grimbaldus undoubtedly located, and was known by his place of residence as Ralph2 DE BACONS-THORP.  The early monumental brasses of the family have effigies under trees, an evident allusion to the origin of the name.  A Sir William BACON or Sir Roger BACON is taken notice of, among knights bearing banners, as well Norman as of other provinces, in the reign of Philip III. of France, and bore for his arms a beech-tree.  Roger3 DE BACONSTHORP, son of Ralph,2 was father of Robert,4 who assumed the name of BACON; and to make his identity clear, during the change of patronymic, was styled Robert-FITZ-ROGER.  He was a person of great power and cousin of Jeff RIDEL, Bishop

[page 197]

of Ely in 1174.  He was father of Reginald,5 who was father of Richard,6 who having five sons, one of them, the fifth son, Sir Henry7 BACON of Letheringsete, a justice itinerant, or Circuit Judge, would seem by the affix to his name to be in possession of the estate of his distant cousin Peter6 DE LETHERINGSETE.

Note III. – Mr. TOWNSHEND has given attention to the later part of the family history.  The early history is in a state of bewilderment, which is hardly worth clearing up for general readers.  Joseph FOSTER, one of the most eminent genealogists of the world, says “the early descent of this family, which was very widely spread through Suffolk, is variously set forth, as may be seen on reference to Davy’s MS. Collections relating to the County.  In “Collectanea Genealogica” he has given a long list of the MS. Pedigrees in the British Museum, which are of importance to students of this family history.  To show the variety in pedigrees, the best guide would be the QUAPLADDE quartering, of which the family is proud, derived from Margaret QUAPLADDE, an heiress; in Dethrick’s Grant of 1568, preserved by the family, she is stated to be the wife of Edmund BACON, about the time of Edward II., and eight generations are given between her and Sir Nicholas, the Lord Keeper, while Playfair finds that she did not marry a BACON direct, but was wife of William THORP, a grandson of Roger (12th generation from Grimbaldus) BACON, and that her grandchild Margaret THORP was the wife of John16 BACON, of Drinkston, the great-great-grandfather of Sir Nicholas, Dethrick giving eight generations between them, while Playfair gives but five.  Playfair gives the line of descent from George3 as follows: Roger,4 Robert,5 Reginald,6 Richard7 (he was the first to bear the arms, Gu. on a chief. Ar. two mullets sa), Reginald,8 Richard,9 Sir Henry,10 Sir Henry11 (he married Margaret LUDHAM, who bore 3 inescutcheons), Sir Roger12 (whose daughter Beatrix13 was wife of Sir William THORP, their son William14 THORP, married Margaret QUAPLADDE, whose arms, barry of six or. and az. a bend gules, are generally quartered with descendants of the Drinkston line – John15 THORP, whose daughter Margaret16 THORP married John BACON of Drinkston.  He was the John4 of Mr. TOWNSHEND’s pedigree, which begins with John,1 married Cicilly HOO.

The Hessett line from John,3 by his second marriage with Julian BARDWELL, bore different arms, viz.: Ar. on a fesse engrailed between three inescutcheons gu. three mullets or.  I think these inescutcheons came from Margaret LUDHAM, wife of Sir Henry12 BACON, instead of the D’AVILIERs, to whose connection with the BACON family they have sometimes been attributed.

Note IV. – It will be seen in Mr. TOWNSHEND’s article that the great-grandfather of Nathaniel BACON of Virginia, the rebel, was first cousin to the celebrated Lord BACON, from whom Nathaniel5 BACON, the leader of the rebellion, was fifth in descent through Sir James,2 Nathaniel,3 and Thomas4 his father.  Sir James2 had another son, Rev. James,3 who was father of Col. Nathaniel4 BACON of Virginia, who, I suppose, may, in Mr. SHATTUCK’s nomenclature (REG. i. 355-9), be termed the cousin-uncle of his namesake.

The numbers indicating generations in this and the following note, begin with the Lord Keeper Nicholas and his brother James.

Note V. – Foster, in the “Register of Admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521-1881,” p. 29, states that Edward2 BACON “was one of five sons, who with his five sons were all members of Gray’s Inn.”  The first Nathaniel2 of the family was his brother, Sir Nathaniel2 BACON of Stiffkey, Knight, whose first wife was Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas GRESHAM of London, Knight, the founder of the Royal Exchange.  Another brother, Sir Nicholas2 BACON of Redgrave, Bart., was the first Baronet ever created in England, May 22, 1611.  The cost of this honor was £1095.  Simple knighthood had become a pretence for the exaction of penalties and fees, yet the title was eagerly sought for by men of wealth, and conferred so generally that persons of high character preferred the payment of fines for non-acceptance of the honor!  The names of BACON and TOWNSHEND can be found in such a list.  James I. knighted 240 while on his way from Scotland to England, July 23, 1603; he knighted 400 in one day, 900 the first year, and 2333 during his reign.  This Sir Nicholas2 BACON, Bart., was father of Nathaniel3 BACON, the artist of Culford.  Edward’s2 half brothers were Anthony2 and Sir Francis2 BACON, the Philosopher – usually styled Lord BACON, but whose real title was Francis, Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans.  These were the five sons of Sir Nicholas1 BACON, the Lord Keeper.

Edward2 BACON’s third son Nathaniel3 was recorder of Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds, and was the distinguished republican writer of CROMWELL’s time, whose principal work is referred to by Mr. TOWNSHEND. […]

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